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When it comes to BBQ, many people stick to the tried and true flavors of traditional sauces and seasonings. And there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. Many people have their favorite regional style and associate that with great BBQ. Especially when it comes to barbecue competition cooking.

But if you are cooking a backyard meal for your friends and/or family and want to do something different, there is a whole world of “unconventional” flavors waiting to be explored. By stepping out of your comfort zone and experimenting with unique ingredients, you can take your BBQ to a whole new level. 

If you want to surprise and delight your guests with unexpected taste sensations, it's time to embrace the power of unconventional flavors.

By incorporating unique ingredients into your barbecue cooking, you can create a symphony of flavors that will tantalize your taste buds and leave a lasting impression on anyone who takes a bite. Unconventional flavors can add depth, complexity, and a touch of excitement to your dishes, elevating them from good to fantastic.

In this article, we break down some exciting ways that you can add unique flavors to grilled or smoked meats and sides.


Add a Citrus Twist

Adding a citrus twist to your BBQ can take your dishes to a whole new level of flavor. The zesty and refreshing notes of citrus fruits can perfectly complement the smoky and savory taste of barbecued meats. Here are two great ways to incorporate a citrus twist:


Lemon and Herb Marinated Meat

When it comes to infusing your meats with bright and tangy flavors, a lemon and herb marinade is a game-changer. This marinade combines the zing of freshly squeezed lemon juice with aromatic herbs like parsley, basil, and thyme, creating a delicious blend that will leave your taste buds craving more.

Making a lemon and herb marinade is super easy. Simply whisk together the juice of two lemons, a quarter cup of olive oil, some minced garlic, chopped fresh parsley, and a sprinkle of salt and pepper to taste. Then marinate your choice of meat, whether it's chicken, pork, or even fish, for at least an hour before grilling.

The acidity of the lemon juice tenderizes the meat, while the herbs infuse it with a burst of freshness. Once cooked, your BBQ creations will boast a delightful citrusy tang that will take your dishes to a new level.


Orange-Glazed Ribs


orange glazed ribs | unconventional flavors for BBQ | unusual ingredients for BBQ


If you want to add a unique twist to a rack of smoked barbecue ribs, then an orange glaze is the way to go. An orange-based glaze will give a touch of sweetness to your BBQ while still keeping it deliciously tangy.

While the ribs are cooking is when you’ll whip up the orange glaze. Simply combine fresh squeezed orange juice, brown sugar, soy sauce, and a hint of ginger in a saucepan. Allow the mixture to simmer and reduce until it thickens slightly. Brush the glaze onto the ribs during the last few minutes of cooking and turn them frequently to ensure a glossy and caramelized coating.

The sweet and tangy flavor of the orange glaze adds a delightful twist to the rich and smoky taste of the ribs.


Use a Sweet and Spicy Combo

Great barbecue is all about the proper balance of flavors. And, when done properly, this can include two opposite flavors. So if you are looking to add a unique twist to your next cookout, try the delicious combination of sweet and spicy. 

The contrast of these two flavors can help take your BBQ dishes to a whole new level. Here are two mouthwatering ways to balance these two flavors:


Homemade Pineapple Jalapeno Barbecue Sauce

Using sweet fruits and spicy peppers is a perfect way to add some unique flavor to your BBQ repertoire. This homemade barbecue sauce combines the tropical goodness of pineapple with the heat of jalapeno and the smoky richness of barbecue sauce, creating a flavor explosion that will complement any grilled meat.

Here's a simple recipe to make your own pineapple jalapeno barbecue sauce:


  • 1 cup pineapple chunks, fresh or canned
  • 1/2 cup pineapple juice
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon black pepper

Combine all of the ingredients in a saucepan and bring it to a boil. Then reduce heat to low and simmer for 15 minutes, or until the sauce has thickened slightly. Remove it from heat and let cool completely before using it as a glaze or dipping sauce.

This sauce is perfect for basting pork ribs, grilled chicken, or even drizzling over grilled vegetables. Its sweet and tangy flavors will add a delightful twist to your barbecue.


Mango Chipotle Marinade

Another great way to combine a spicy kick with a touch of sweetness is a mango chipotle marinade. With this, you combine the delicious sweetness of mangoes with the smoky heat of chipotle peppers, creating a perfect balance of sweet and spicy flavors.

For this marinade, simply combine diced ripe mango, minced chipotle peppers, lime juice, olive oil, honey, garlic powder, cumin, salt, and pepper in a bowl and mix well. Then, let your meat marinate in this mixture for a couple of hours before cooking.


Unleash the Power of Umami


umami sauce for BBQ | unconventional flavors for BBQ | unusual ingredients for BBQ


Umami is the fifth basic taste of the flavor profiles, along with sweet, sour, salty, and bitter. It is often described as a savory or meaty taste and frequently used in Asian dishes. But using umami can help beautifully enhance the flavor of BBQ meat by adding more depth and complexity. It can also help to make the meat even more tender and juicy. Here are two ways you can utilize the delicious power of umami:


Ginger-Soy Marinade

When it comes to using umami to enhance the flavors of your BBQ, look no further than the umami-packed goodness of a ginger-soy marinade. This versatile marinade combines the savory taste of soy sauce with the zing of fresh ginger, creating a mouthwatering blend that will elevate your grilled dishes.

To make this marinade, just combine equal parts soy sauce and freshly grated ginger in a bowl. The soy sauce provides a rich, salty base, while the ginger adds a subtle heat and a bright, citrusy note. For added flavor complexity, you can also include other ingredients such as garlic, honey, or sesame oil. Whisk everything together until well combined. Then marinate your meat for 1 to 2 hours before cooking.


Miso-Glazed Steak

For a truly indulgent BBQ experience, look no further than the mouthwatering umami explosion of miso-glazed steak. This unique twist on a classic cut of meat combines the rich, earthy flavors of miso paste with the succulent tenderness of a perfectly grilled steak.

To make this glaze, whisk together miso paste, mirin (a sweet rice wine), soy sauce, and a touch of honey or brown sugar. The miso paste is the star of the show, providing a deep, complex umami taste. The mirin adds a subtle sweetness, while the soy sauce brings savory notes that complement the steak beautifully.

Once your glaze is ready, generously coat your steak with it. Let the steak marinate in the glaze for at least 15 minutes. For maximum impact, you can let it marinate for up to an hour.

The umami-packed ingredients above can bring a depth of flavor that will leave your guests impressed and asking for your secret recipe.


Try an Herb Infusion

By infusing flavorful herbs into your grilling or smoking you can add a whole other dimension to your food. Herbs can help amplify and complement the natural flavors of meats and vegetables. Here are two mouth-watering ways that you can utilize fresh herbs:


Rosemary-Infused Lamb Chops


rosemary smoked lamb chops | unconventional flavors for BBQ | unusual ingredients for BBQ
Source: Food52


If you're looking to add a touch of elegance and depth to your BBQ, using rosemary with lamb is the perfect choice. The aromatic herb brings a unique flavor profile that complements the rich, juicy lamb beautifully. 

Infusing lamb chops with the taste of rosemary is very easy. Just mix up a marinade of minced fresh rosemary, garlic, olive oil, salt, and pepper in a bowl. Then let your lamb chops sit in this marinade in a resealable bag in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours, allowing the flavors to meld together.

The result? Tender, succulent grilled lamb chops infused with the earthy and aromatic essence of rosemary. Your guests will be impressed by the depth of flavor in this dish.


Basil Pesto Grilled Vegetables

Who said that herbs are only meant for meat? Basil pesto is a versatile sauce that can take your grilled vegetables to new heights. The vibrant flavors of basil, garlic, pine nuts, and Parmesan cheese create a delightful explosion of taste when combined with the smokiness of the grilled vegetable. 

To incorporate the basil pesto, just drizzle it over the grilled vegetables, ensuring each piece is thoroughly coated, and gently toss the vegetables to distribute the pesto evenly. You can serve the basil pesto grilled vegetables as a side dish or as a standalone vegetarian option.

Incorporating herb infusion into your BBQ dishes allows you to explore new dimensions of flavor. Whether it's the aromatic rosemary-infused meat or the use of vibrant basil pesto, these unconventional flavors will take your BBQ experience to a whole new level. Get creative and don’t be afraid to experiment with different herbs.


Add Just a Touch of Heat

Simply adding a touch of heat to your barbecue can help elevate the flavor profile and create a truly memorable taste. If you're a fan of a subtly spicy kick, these unconventional flavors will surely satisfy:


Smoky Chipotle Rub

For the lovers of spice, there's something irresistible about the smoky flavor of chipotle. Chipotle peppers are actually smoked and dried jalapenos, and they bring a unique smoky heat to any dish. When used as a rub for your grilled or smoked meats, it adds a fantastic depth of flavor.

To make your own smoky chipotle rub, start with dried chipotle peppers.Use a spice grinder or mortar and pestle to grind them into a fine powder. Combine the chipotle powder with other spices like smoked paprika, cumin, garlic powder, and brown sugar. The result is a flavorful rub that will give your meats a smoky, spicy crust.

Next time you're smoking chicken, brisket, beef ribs, or a pork roast, generously apply the smoky chipotle rub beforehand and let the flavors infuse into the meat. As it cooks, the rub will create a beautiful caramelized crust with a delicious hint of heat.


Jalapeno and Lime Grilled Corn on the Cob


jalapeno grilled corn | unconventional flavors for BBQ | unusual ingredients for BBQ


Is there anything more delightful than sinking your teeth into a juicy, perfectly grilled corn on the cob? Take it up a notch by adding a jalapeno and lime twist to this classic BBQ side dish. The combination of the heat from the jalapeno and the tanginess of lime creates a flavor explosion that will have everyone reaching for seconds.

To do this, in a small bowl, combine melted butter, minced jalapenos, lime zest, lime juice, salt, and pepper and thoroughly mix. Then, after you have removed the husks and silk from the corn, brush the mixture generously onto the corn, making sure to coat all sides. Wrap each corn cob in aluminum foil and place them on the grill. 

Each bite of the grilled corn will be bursting with flavor, as the heat from the jalapenos lingers on your palate and the lime adds a refreshing zing.

So, the next time you fire up the grill, don't be afraid to experiment with these unconventional flavors. The smoky chipotle rub and the jalapeno and lime corn on the cob will undoubtedly add a touch of heat and excitement to your BBQ.


Don’t Be Afraid to Get Creative with Unconventional Ingredients

Incorporating unconventional flavors into your BBQ can take your grilling game to the next level. By experimenting with “unusual” ingredients such as tangy citrus, sweet fruits, spicy peppers, fresh herbs, exotic spices, and even coffee, you can create unique and mouth-watering dishes that will impress your friends and family.

Remember to balance these flavors with the traditional BBQ elements to maintain the essence of classic BBQ. Don't be afraid to get creative and try new combinations – you may discover a winning flavor profile that sets your barbecue apart from the rest.

Do you know of or use any other unconventional ingredients in your barbecue cooking? Did you recently try one of the things we covered above? If so, leave a comment below. We want to hear all about it!

If you want to cook the best barbecue you’ve ever made, BBQ Champs Academy is your answer. Our virtual classes are taught by professional pitmasters and grillmasters, and we offer a variety of courses to fit your needs. Whether you're a beginner or a seasoned pro, we have something for you.

To learn how to cook delicious backyard barbecue, check out our Championship Backyard BBQ virtual classes. These classes, taught by professional pitmasters and grillmasters, will show step-by-step how to make 20 delicious and easy-to-follow recipes perfectly, including herb-roasted chicken with white sauce, bacon-wrapped shrimp with jalapeno and pineapple, and more!

If you're serious about taking your barbecue to the next level, then you'll want to check out our All-Access Pass. This pass gives you access to pro-tips from Champion pitmasters and grillmasters unlike you’ll find anywhere else. You’ll learn how to perfectly smoke ribs, brisket, pork butt, and chicken. 

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So what are you waiting for? Get started with BBQ Champs Academy today and start barbecuing like a pro!

*Feature image from Yummly.com

We’ve previously talked about both beers and wines that can be paired with BBQ. But one thing is for sure, bourbon and barbecue are also a fantastic duo. Bourbon has long been welcome at the table of many outdoor cooking occasions. There are even festivals focused on bourbon and BBQ. Plus, many top Pitmasters not only drink bourbon alongside their barbecue but also use it in their homemade BBQ sauce, marinades, and even smoked/grilled desserts

But, with so many brands available these days, it may leave your head spinning trying to figure out which are the best bourbons to pair with barbecue. So, we’ve got you covered (without overwhelming you even further). In this article, we’ve put together 4 great options as well as broken down exactly what bourbon is. Let’s take a look:


So, What is Bourbon Exactly? (and Why it Pairs with BBQ)

To truly understand why bourbon goes so well with barbecue, it’s important to know exactly what it is. You may (or may not) have heard the phrase, “all bourbon is whiskey, but not all whiskey is bourbon”. This is the extremely simplified answer to the question “what is bourbon?”.

Whiskey is made by distilling a fermented mash of grains, often including rye, wheat, barley, and corn. But, for a whiskey to be considered a bourbon, it must:

  • Be made from a fermented grain mash that contains at least 51% corn (in order to meet the requirements set by the U.S. Congress as a distinctive product.) Many of the best bourbons use a mash that contains as much as 80% corn.
  • Be made in the United States. Technically it can be made anywhere in the US, but 95% of bourbon comes from Kentucky. This is because of the perfect mix of fertile soil and pure limestone water that is found in Kentucky. The limestone-filtered water helps to significantly improve the taste of the bourbon.
  • Be distilled to no more than 160 proof (80% alcohol by volume) and no more than 125 proof (62.5% ABV) when it is barrelled.
  • Be aged in brand new charred American White Oak barrels. So a barrel can only be used once to age bourbon. The charring within these barrels is what adds to the unique flavor characteristics of bourbon. (Ones that pair very well with smoked and grilled foods)
  • Have nothing added to it, besides water, in the distilling process. If anything else, like honey or maple flavoring, is added then it is no longer a bourbon. For example, when Wild Turkey added honey to their bourbon, it became Wild Turkey Liqueur (later called Wild Turkey American Honey).


what is bourbon | bourbons to pair with barbecue | bourbon and BBQ pairings
Source: The Spruce Eats


Bourbons often have robust rye, oaky vanilla, complex fruit, subtle spice, and smoky char flavors. All of which are perfect matches for barbecue. The hint of sweetness from the bourbon is a great balance with the umami and salt flavors of the meat. Depending on the specific bourbon and which are the more forward flavors, bourbons can pair very well with smoky and fatty meats (think brisket and pork butt), lighter meats (like chicken), and even smoked seafood.

Plus, bourbon won’t fill you up like drinking beer will. Ensuring you can focus on filling up on the delicious barbecue while still enjoying a perfectly paired drink.

In the bourbon options below, we’ve gone into more detail about the exact flavor profiles of each and what types of barbecue they pair well with. So, without further ado, here are some of the best bourbon options to go with BBQ, without having to spend a ton of money on a bottle.


4 Bourbons That Go Great With BBQ:


Woodford Reserve Straight Bourbon Whiskey

Aged between 6 and 7 years, 90.4 proof, 750 ml, $31 (on average)

For a great bourbon with a very reasonable price, Woodford Reserve is a top option. The deliciously complex flavor of this bourbon pairs extremely well with the flavor of smoked meats, especially beef brisket. Woodford Reserve Kentucky Straight Bourbon is made up of more than 200 detectable flavor notes, from bold wood and spice to sweet aromatics, fruit, and floral.

This bourbon has a nose that is heavy with rich dried fruit and hints of orange and mint dusted with cocoa. There is also a faint aroma of vanilla and tobacco spice. The taste is rich, rounded, and smooth, with complex cinnamon, citrus, and cocoa flavors. You’ll also note caramel, toffee, chocolate, and spice. Enjoy a silky smooth, almost creamy finish with a warm satisfying tail.


Four Roses Single Barrel

Aged between 7 and 9 years, 100 proof, 750 ml, $45 (on average)


four roses single barrel bourbon | bourbons to pair with barbecue | bourbon and BBQ pairings
Source: Four Roses


Barbecue that uses a robust sauce, like Memphis-style barbecue with its rich and semi-sweet flavors, needs a bourbon that can stand up to its deep flavor with rich oak and spicy rye. The Single Barrel Bourbon from the Four Roses distillery in Kentucky answers that call.

Acclaimed by many as the best bourbon offered by Four Roses, Single Barrel is bottled from individual hand-picked barrels. It is full-bodied, complex, and surprisingly smooth with a long, delicate finish that’s incredibly mellow. Thus making this bourbon a great complement to fatty meat with a rich barbecue sauce. On the nose, it gives aromas of pear, dried spice, cocoa, vanilla, and maple syrup. On the palate, you’ll taste hints of cherries and ripe plum.


Bardstown Fusion #5

A blend of bourbons aged 3 years and 11 years, 94.9 proof, 750 ml, $60 (on average)

#5 of the Fusion Series from the Bardstown brand is a popular favorite among many of the top BBQ pitmasters. This bourbon blends newer and older bourbons, including an 11-year sourced bourbon, to create a unique and delicious bourbon. This choice pairs extremely well with barbecue due to its sweet cream, rich bread pudding, and toasty caramelized plantain flavor notes. It’s a bit zesty as well, finishing with a hint of bitter citrus and orange zest notes. 

One of the best pairings with this bourbon is pork, with its natural sweetness while still being able to carry flavor profiles. Smoked pork butt pulled and finished with a mustard-based sauce is a perfect complement to the sweet flavors of the Fusion #5 bourbon. Dry-rubbed spareribs with mild heat are another great pairing. It’s also important to allow Fusion #5 to showcase its heat by balancing it out with the natural flavors of barbecue meat.


Elijah Craig Toasted Barrel

Aged 8 to 10 years, 94 proof, 750 ml, $129 (on average)


elijah craig toasted barrel bourbon | bourbons to pair with barbecue | bourbon and BBQ pairings
Source: Breaking Bourbon


The award-winning Small Batch Bourbon from Elijah Craig is one of the most popular bourbons out there. But, if you want an even more elevated flavor that pairs very well with barbecue and you don’t mind spending a little more money, check out Elijah Craig Toasted Barrel. It may be harder to find a bottle of this bourbon compared to the others we’ve covered but it’s worth it. This bourbon takes the Small Batch Bourbon and, after it is matured, finishes the aging process in a new custom-toasted, flash-charred barrel, giving even more sweet oak flavor alongside a delicious smokiness. 

Toasted Barrel Bourbon offers aromas of toasted oak and rich caramel. Comforting and warm flavors of milk chocolate and brown sugar blend with delicious chipotle, pepper, spices, and smoke. This bourbon is, as described by the distillery, “deeply layered and profound”. Toasted Barrel deliciously complements just about any smoky barbecue items you can cook and makes a great option for your nicer/celebratory BBQ occasions.


Enjoy the Winning Combo of Bourbon & BBQ Today!

The options we’ve covered in this article are definitely great places to start when it comes to bourbons to pair with barbecue for a delicious combo. As you can see, you don’t always have to spend a ton of money to get a good bourbon. So, pick one of the ones above, pour yourself a glass, and enjoy it with your favorite smoked or grilled food today!

Have you tried one of the bourbons we’ve above? Do you have a different favorite to pair with barbecue? Leave a comment below and tell us about it!


If you are ready to take your outdoor cooking to the next level, you can learn straight from award-winning Pitmasters and Grillmasters here at BBQ Champs Academy.

In our first-of-their-kind virtual barbecue cooking classes, you’ll get competition-caliber cooking techniques step-by-step as well as valuable pro tips, all in stunning high-def video. Check out our All-Access passes to get the full inside scoop for competition-caliber cooking. You can also buy classes individually or check out our Championship Backyard BBQ classes to learn 20 different recipes to impress your family and friends (for only $99!).

Make sure to also Subscribe to our BBQ Champs Academy YouTube channel to ensure you don’t miss the latest BBQ news and insider info straight from the pros!

We’ve talked before about beers that pair well with barbecue, but what about for the wine lovers? Beer is not the only alcoholic choice when it comes to enjoying great grilled or smoked food, as there are some delicious options of wine to pair with barbecue. 

It’s just a matter of balancing flavor profiles and choosing combinations that enhance each other versus overpowering each other. Choosing a good bottle of wine to pair with what’s in your cooker can really help elevate the final result.

But, with so many options of wines available, things can easily get confusing fast. It’s not as easy as just saying a red wine or a white wine. Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered! In this article, we’ll break down what you need to know about pairing wine with barbecue and which wines go with specific meats and other foods. Let’s take a look:


General Tips:

Before we get into specific types of wine for certain types of grilled or smoked foods, there are some general tips to keep in mind first:

  • The main goal is to pair flavors that complement each other, not fight against each other. So, match like characteristics between the food and the wine. Match weight with weight, intensity to intensity (of flavors), acid to acid, etc.
  • Contrasting flavor profiles can greatly help balance the overall taste out very well. Like salty and sweet or sweet and spicy. For example, if you’re cooking beef and going big on spice, then you’d want to go with a fruit-forward red wine or a bold Rosé with a hint of sweetness.
  • The bold flavors from smoking food can overpower many lighter wines. So, think big bold wines when trying to pair with bold smoky flavors. That being said, when barbecue is done right it shouldn’t be a smoke bomb, just like when wine pairing is done right the wine should not be the dominant flavor.
  • “Red wines with meat and white wines with fish” is not an accurate statement. Some fish, like salmon, have a bold flavor when grilled, so a red wine would actually pair better. And some meats, like pork chops, pair well with some types of white wines.
  • Save delicate wines with delicate items on the grill like light white fish, shellfish, fruit, and light desserts.
  • If the outside temperature is above 68°F (20°C) then red wines should actually be slightly chilled for the best flavor. Even the boldest red wines are best enjoyed at “room temperature”, which is actually 65°F (18°C).
  • It may be more convenient, but avoid drinking wine out of plastic cups if possible. It does affect the taste of the wine. If you’re going to take the time to pair wine with your grilled or smoked food, you don’t want to ruin it with something like that.


what wine goes well with barbecue | wine pairing for BBQ | pairing wine with barbecue
Source: Vindulge


Pairing by the Type of Wine:

Of course, pairing wine with barbecue and grilled food can be broken down the other way around, based on the type of meat/food you are cooking. But, since certain wines can go well with several different food options when it comes to outdoor cooking, in this section we’ve broken down wine pairings by type of wine:


Red Wines

Generally speaking, for most beef cuts and BBQ sauce-covered proteins, reds will often be your best bet. An easy-drinking Malbec or Shiraz is a great choice for most grilled beef dishes, especially those with no sauce and a simple dry rub

Other great options for when you are grilling bold-flavored burgers include Zinfandel, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Grenache blends (like Côtes du Rhône).

For a great, thick-cut grilled steak, like a NY Strip or Ribeye, you can really elevate the flavors of the beef with a Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, or Cabernet Franc.

For things like grilled chicken cuts or pork ribs with a BBQ sauce, go for a bold and fruity red that is not too high in tannins. Good options would be Zinfandel, Merlot, or Syrah. You want something that can stand up to the flavors of the meat.

Zinfandel, especially a full-bodied and oak-aged one, is also a great choice for boldly-spiced smoked beef brisket.

Pinot Noir is another incredibly versatile red wine option. It is great with a smoked whole chicken or whole turkey that has a rub, smoked beef brisket, grilled salmon (especially when grilled on a wood plank), grilled lamb, and pork dishes, like pork tenderloin and pork chops.


White Wines

White wines are much more versatile with grilled food than many people think. In general, white wine is fantastic with lighter options of grilled seafood like white fish, shrimp, oysters, etc. Two specific options that are delicious with grilled seafood are Albariño and Verdejo, because of their zippy acidity and rich stone fruit flavors.

Chardonnay is a great pairing with simply seasoned grilled chicken and pork, as well as meaty fish and shellfish (halibut, cod, lobster, etc.). But remember, Chardonnay itself comes in a very wide variety of styles, from full-bodied and oaky to light and crisp with no oak. So, pair light food flavors with light Chardonnays and bolder, smoky food flavors with the full-bodied and oaked Chardonnays.  

Another delicious option with most grilled poultry, fish, seafood boils, and even lightly-seasoned pork chops is Riesling, with its excellent acidity and light fruit flavors.

If you’re grilling a variety of vegetable options, go for fresher style Chenin blanc for a delicious combo.

For grilled fruit and grilled desserts with fruit, Pinot Gris and Pinot Grigio make a great pairing.


what wine goes well with barbecue | wine to pair with grilled seafood | pairing wine with barbecue seafood
Source: Social Vignerons


Sparkling Wines

Everyone loves bubbles! Thankfully, sparkling wines are some of the most versatile options when it comes to pairing wine with barbecue and other grilled or smoked food. These wines are great with grilled seafood, grilled chicken, grilled vegetables, and grilled desserts. 

For great overall pairings when cooking these types of food, you can grab some French Champagne, Spanish Cava, or Italian Prosecco.

If you are grilling a heavier seafood option like salmon and want a sparkling wine, a Rosé Champagne makes a fantastic pairing. 



Similar to sparkling wine, Rosé is another incredibly versatile option with grilled and smoked foods. Due to the acidity found in most good quality Rosé’s, this type of wine makes an excellent pairing for both light grilled foods (like lightly-seasoned chicken wings and seafood) and bolder cuts of meat (like beef and pork).

Like Chardonnay, Rosé’s have a wide range of styles from bold and darker flavors to light and crisp flavors. For a bolder Rosé, go with one from Spain, South America, or Washington State. A bold Rosé can also actually pair very well with smoked brisket if you don’t want to do a traditional bold red wine. For a fresh, light, and elegant Rosé go with one from Provence (France), Oregon, or other options made from Pinot Noir grapes.


Pairing Wine with Barbecue Can Create Some Delicious Combos

As you can see, there is a wide variety of wines that can pair very well with grilled, barbecued, and smoked foods. There are even some instances where certain red wines AND certain white wines can pair with one particular type of meat or seafood. 

So, it’s important to emphasize that when pairing wine with BBQ, focus on drinking what you like. If you’re smoking a whole chicken but prefer red wine, you are not strictly relegated to white wine. In that instance, go for a red like a Pinot Noir, that can still elevate the taste of the chicken and suit your preferences.

You may not be really familiar with each type of wine we mentioned above, but at least now you could go into your local wine store and know exactly what to ask for based on your preference in the type of wine (red versus white, etc.) and what you are cooking.

Do you have a favorite wine pairing with grilled or smoked food? Are you going to try one of these pairings above soon? Leave a comment below. We want to hear all about it!

Now that you know how to pair wines with your grilled and smoked foods, you can take your outdoor cooking to the next level with the award-winning Pitmasters and Grillmasters here at BBQ Champs Academy. 

In our virtual BBQ cooking classes, you’ll learn competition-caliber cooking techniques step-by-step as well as valuable insider secrets, all in stunning high-def video. Check out our All-Access passes to get the full inside look or you can buy the classes you want individually.

Make sure to also click Subscribe on the BBQ Champs Academy YouTube channel to stay on top of all the latest BBQ news and insider info straight from the pros!

There’s not much better than a nice cold beer with the smoky BBQ that you’ve been cooking outside. Especially during these hotter summer days. You may have heard that certain wines pair well with certain types of food. But, you may not know that the same kind of thing applies to beer pairings with BBQ. 

Certain beers pair better with BBQ compared to others. With the variety of micro-brewed beers available these days there’s a lot to choose from. It all comes down to balancing flavors to complement each other.

So, you may be wondering what beers pair well with BBQ? If you are going to take the time to learn how to BBQ right, why not learn what beer pairings can help elevate the flavors and make your tastebuds dance. 


General Pairing Rules To Remember

There is a variety of beers that pair very nicely with many of the common flavors found in BBQ. The important thing to remember is that you want to pick a beer that balances the flavors found in your BBQ. A beer with the exact same comparable flavors will just get lost. For example, you don’t want to pair a sweeter beer with a sweet BBQ sauce.

Also, when it comes to the heaviness of the beer, you want to match it with the heaviness of the food. Light meats or seafood pair with lighter beers, while heavier meats pair better with heavier beers.

In this article, we’ll break down some of the best beers that you can pair with different types of BBQ. Then you can be sure to have something for everyone, no matter if you are barbecuing for a Monday night family dinner or getting ready to unleash your barbecue skills on the 4th of July weekend


Chicken & Seafood

When you are cooking lighter meats, like chicken, as well as any seafood, beers on the lighter end of the spectrum are going to be your best bet. You can still end up with a flavorful beer without overpowering the meat. 

Great beer pairings for chicken and seafood include:

  • Light Lager - These lighter flavored beers go very well with lighter BBQ foods. Some of them have a refreshing balance of floral fruit hops, almost like a pilsner, and bready malt. While others have a hint of sweetness from a toasted caramel malt flavor. 
  • Pilsner - A drier beer with a hint of bitterness to help balance buttery flavors, especially in seafood. Some Pilsners have some floral hops flavors like Lagers as well. 
  • Witbier - These often have a little more sweetness compared to some of the other light beers, but also adding a citrusy acidity. You’ll usually find a hint of coriander spice as well. 
  • Hefeweizen - These usually have a little heavier body compared to a Light Lager but are still refreshing and light enough for chicken and seafood. With these, you’ll find a nice blend of fruit flavors (like banana, for example), lemon, cloves, coriander, and a hint of tartness. 
  • Saisons - These fun brews have a tart and complex flavor that will balance well with the sweeter or oily flavors in chicken and seafood.


beer to pair with bbq chicken | beer pairings | beer pairing with BBQSource: The Food Network



Whether you are cooking chops, shoulder, or ribs, pork is going to be considered medium-heaviness meat. So, with more fat and a bolder flavor, you can slightly increase the heaviness with the beer pairing. 

Some beers that go great with pork include:

  • India Pale Lager - With a lighter and not as bitter flavor as an India Pale Ale, an IPL will have a lightly toasty and sweet malt profile to bring out the flavors in the meat, while spicy and citrusy hop flavors pair well with many BBQ sauce flavors. 
  • Pale Ale - These are on the lighter end when it comes to heaviness but the citrusy, floral blend of flavors will still hold up to the pork with enough malt and pair very well. 
  • Session IPA (India Pale Ale) - With a lower bitterness and fuller flavor compared to a traditional IPA, copper-colored Session IPAs still have enough of a punch of hops to pair with the fattier pork flavors. They also balance tangy BBQ flavors very well. 
  • German Lager - On the heavier end for lagers, German Lagers feature bready, caramelly, or toasty flavors with dark malts that cut through the fat of the meat and complement flavors nicely. 
  • Porter - Considered a medium body beer, but one that won’t overpower the meat, Porters are a great match for BBQ pork. The smokiness and roasted malt flavors balance the flavors of the meat, while sometimes even adding a hint of toasted chocolate or coffee flavors.

Keep in mind, if you are using a heavier sauce on your pork, especially a sweeter based one, don’t go for a beer that is on the sweeter side. Pair a brighter, hoppier beer with a sweet barbecue sauce to balance the flavor. If you are using more of a vinegar-based or tangy sauce, a Porter with a hint of sweetness is going to complement nicely.


Ribeye Steak

Ribeye Steak cuts are going to fall between pork and brisket, lamb, etc when it comes to heaviness. Especially for thicker, fattier steaks. So think of the heaviness of the beer the same. You could go towards the darker, more robust end of the spectrum for your beer pairing.

Some good beer pairings for steak include:

  • Brown Ales - These are darker than other Ale varieties without being as bold as Porters and Stouts. The malt flavors are strong enough without overpowering the meat. Making these perfect for leaner steak cuts. 
  • Porter - Because of the darkened malts, these often have a roasted bitterness that offers a perfect contrast to marbled steak. 
  • Stout - These pair well if you want to go heavier for a bigger, fattier steak. The roasted black malts that give stouts their color undergo almost the same carbonization that the exterior of your steak does when it is seared on the hot grill, pairing perfectly without being overpowering.


beer to pair with steak | beer pairings | beer pairing with BBQSource: FoodChannel.com


Beef Brisket, Beef Ribs, & Lamb

When you get into brisket, beef ribs, lamb, or other gamey meats, you can pair the heavy, bold flavors of the meat with bolder beers. In general, beers that are hoppier or have more malt will hold up to the meat and complement it well.

Beers that pair well with these bolder meats include:

  • India Pale Ale (IPA) - These are on the lighter end of the beer pairing choices for brisket and lamb. They often have refreshing fruit flavors but are far from a sweet fruit beer because of the strong, bitter citrus hops and malt flavors. 
  • Belgian Dubbel or Tripel -  These fuller-bodied beers have a heavy dark malt profile. Combined with a great balance of bready Belgian yeast, caramel undertones, and a hint of sweet fruitiness, these balance the flavors in the meat very well. 
  • Stout - A dark, usually heavy bodied-beer, stouts hold up to the heaviness of brisket and lamb while offering a hint of sweetness with dry flavors to balance the meat.

You could even go with one of the heavy dark beers that have even sweeter notes of dark fruit or chocolate, to balance and enhance the rich, savory flavors of the “big” meats. Especially if you’re cooking more of a Texas-style brisket with bolder, spicier flavors.


Universal Favorites

If you’re cooking for a crowd, you may be cooking several different types of meat. Or you, or someone else who will be enjoying your delicious BBQ, may not like hoppier or dark beers. In either of these cases, don’t fear. Several types of beer could be considered universal favorites. This is because their flavor profiles don’t lean towards too hoppy on one end of the spectrum or too sweet on the other end.

  • American Pale Ale - Even though we mentioned Pale Ale for pork, American Pale Ales have enough hoppiness to complement the spice flavors present in most BBQ, as well as enough malt to hold up to stronger, more savory flavors. An American Pale Ale will also have enough bright flavor notes to be refreshing and cleanse the palate. 
  • Dark Lager - These beers have toasty, nutty, or lightly roasted malt flavor that compliments the similar flavors produced by your grill or smoker. They also often have a hint of caramel flavor that will bring a little sweetness to the mix. This type of combination will allow your beer to pair with any type of meat. Try and go with one that falls in the 5 to 6% ABV (Alcohol By Volume) range so it doesn’t fall short or overpower your food.


beer to pair with bbq | beer pairings | beer pairing with BBQSource: Kegerator Learning Center


Wrapping It All Up

Cooking BBQ often gives you a chance to experiment and play around with different flavors. Whether the flavor is in the type of wood you are using as fuel, flavors in your rubs or sauces, or the type of meat you are cooking. 

Why not step out of your normal comfort zone when it comes to beer pairings also. Different pairings will enhance different flavors found in the meat. Drinking an American Pale Ale with your steak will make it taste completely different than drinking it with a Porter, but both will be delicious. 

Experiment with pairing different flavors of beers with your delicious BBQ. As you can see, you’ve got a lot of great options to choose from.

Now you know how to elevate your beer pairing game, get more insider information and tips from the award-winning pitmasters and grillmasters here at BBQ Champs Academy to take your BBQ to the next level. In our BBQ classes, you’ll learn step-by-step outdoor cooking techniques alongside insider secrets, all in stunning high-def video. Check out our All-Access pass to get the full inside look!

It’s that time of the year again. Football is back,
Nascar and NHRA drag racing is coming into the final stretch of their seasons, and you can smell the BBQ’s going through parking lots across America. It’s time to take your backyard BBQ cooking to the tailgate and master your BBQ game and race day tailgate party.

But a great bbq tailgate get-together is more than just the different kinds of BBQ meat you may be grilling or smoking. If you can also nail the sides to compliment your BBQ, you are sure to create the best tailgate BBQ meal of the season. 

Top BBQ pitmasters know that using side dishes to play off of and compliment the flavors of the meat can actually do wonders to even further enhance the meat’s flavor profiles. Let’s take a look at some top outdoor eating sides for your BBQ tailgate party:


Calico Bean Bake


baked beans | bean bake | backyard bbq | tailgate BBQ | bbq tailgate food | bbq cooking school
Midwest Living Magazine

One hearty and warm side that pairs very well with BBQ is baked beans. But to leave a lasting impression you should skip canned baked beans. Go for a delicious elevated version like this Calico Bean Bake from Midwest Living. 

Looking for something to feed a large group? This easy to make recipe, part baked beans, part chili, is ready in 45 to 50 minutes and feeds 12 people.


Fall Grilled Pineapple


grilled pineapple | backyard bbq | tailgate BBQ | bbq tailgate food | bbq cooking school

Pineapple isn’t just for dessert anymore. This popular sweet and juicy fruit can take on completely different flavor profiles when grilled. This is another easy-to-make side that can be cooked on the grill at the same time your BBQ meat is cooking. 

Prepare it the night before so it can marinate and it’s ready in 2 to 3 minutes of cooking. This tailgate side makes for a perfect appetizer while waiting on the rest of the meal. With a mixture of sweetness and hot sauce to give it an interesting kick, this grilled pineapple recipe from Allrecipes.com will have everyone’s taste buds dancing.


Chargrilled Corn Guacamole

corn guacamole | backyard bbq | tailgate BBQ | bbq tailgate food | bbq cooking school

Source: Food Network

It’s always a good bet to balance off tailgate BBQ with a cold appetizer. Another fan favorite often is guacamole. Elevate the normal everyday guacamole with this great recipe from Bobby Flay for Food Network

By mixing in some chargrilled corn, the guacamole gets an added sweet and smoky flavor. With just a few ingredients, this recipe can be made very quickly and easily.


Tangy Cabbage & Collard Slaw

tailgate slaw | backyard bbq | tailgate BBQ | bbq tailgate food | bbq cooking school

Source: Country Living

You might hear many people say that you can’t have a great tailgate party, or any BBQ for that matter, without some great slaw. This staple side can come in a variety of different flavor profiles, with different types of cabbage, or additions. 

This particular recipe from Country Living will help you create a tangy slaw with a mix of two different crunchy greens. Another easy-to-make side, it pairs great with BBQ and is a sure crowd-pleaser. It can be enjoyed on its own as a side or on top of grilled brats or other meats.


Jack Cheese & Smoky Chipotle Fondue


tailgate fondue | backyard bbq | bbq cooking school

Source: Midwest Living

Dips are always a great option for a side at a tailgate party. They are easy to prepare and can often be done the night before or alongside your meat on the grill. And usually, everyone loves cheese! This creamy fondue dip from Country Living is another side that pairs well with sweet or smoky BBQ flavors and is sure to go fast.

With a serving size of 16, you can keep everyone fed and enjoying a blend of savory and smoky flavors in this fondue with just a little kick of spice. Just make sure to have enough bread cubes or tortilla chips to go around.


Wrapping It All Up

Remember, a great tailgate BBQ party isn’t just about the meat. Great complimentary sides like the ones above can help leave an even greater lasting impression for your friends and family. Try some of these easy to make sides to kick your BBG cooking up a notch.

Here at BBQ Champs Academy, through our first of its kind online BBQ cooking school, we, along with our World Champion pitmasters and grillmasters, aim to teach you everything you need to know to enhance your backyard BBQ techniques. Learn from the pros and make competition quality BBQ and sides. 

Have you mastered any of these sides of above already? Do you know of more great sides that you love with your tailgate BBQ? Leave a comment below, we want to hear from you!


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